THE SCHEDULE says that Capital played just one season last year, but it sure felt like two - split almost down the middle.
The Cougars burst out of the gate with a 4-0 start, cranking out better than 43 points per game and rising all the way to No. 4 in the Class AAA playoff ratings.
Then the second half of the schedule hit - with a thud.
Capital wound up with an inordinate amount of injuries at midseason, lost several key players and - more importantly - several key games. The Cougars limped home with a 5-5 record, missing the postseason, and were left scratching their heads wondering: What if?
"To tell you the truth,'' said Capital coach Jon Carpenter, "I'm glad [this season] is here. It's a chance to put that behind us. I'm tired of making excuses about injuries and all that. That stuff happens, and you've got to be good enough to overcome it.
"I think we're pushing them a little harder this year, and I think they understand that.''
Some of Capital's top players echoed their coach's assessment following Tuesday's workout under scorching, near-90-degree heat at Laidley Field. They don't want to bury last year's disappointments under the turf, but would rather use them as incentive for what they missed.
"We definitely remember it,'' said junior running back James Richmond. "That's just going to push us so we can work harder and let us not have another season like that.''
Davon Tyson, a senior safety, said last year's free fall "motivates us more'' for the coming season.
"We've got to work harder,'' said Tyson, who has started 22 straight games. "We can't take no days off. Even when we ain't got to work, we've got to keep going.''
Junior Carrington Morris, a returning starter at quarterback, also pointed to the motivation factor.
"We plan on getting corrections for what we did last year,'' Morris said. "We know what we did. We understand what we have to do so that it doesn't happen again, so we can get ourselves in the playoffs.''
A year ago, Capital lost five of its final six games to drop out of the playoff hunt. In four of those setbacks, the Cougars managed a total of just 28 points.